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THE EARLY YEARS.
This is a spin off story from The Singer. In that particular series I introduced a female pastoral worker named Petra who comes out at the end of the story. I promised to tell her story because it was an interesting tale. It’s a little long so I’ve chopped it into three parts. It’s set in Melbourne, Australia.
There’s been a lot of talk about coming out in recent years, it started in the 1980s when several public figures in the entertainment industry came out and these cracks in the dyke soon turned into an avalanche as others came out. Granted, there were those who just jumped on the bandwagon because it was a trend but nevertheless, by the time I was five or six I was well aware that not only did gays exist, but their lifestyle was perfectly legitimate. Thus, it should come as no surprise that when I was introduced to Linda I had no problems with her coming along to a Christian Ladies weekend at all.
What may come as a surprise is that her very presence stirred up old memories of my encounters with women, which I’d kept hidden from the world. There were only two women, one was a brief fling in college and the other was a one night stand in a hotel room and I’d kept those things secret from everyone, especially the night in the hotel room.
All that changed the afternoon Rowena came around to out herself to me. Even then it wasn’t so much a conscious effort to identify as having gay tendencies as something that slipped out and once it was out there I had to then clarify that I too was attracted to women. The end result of that of course was my decision to end my marriage and leave the established church and while that might seem like the end of the line for me it took me onto the trail back to where I’d been many years ago. However like all good stories this one has a start, a middle and an ending and with that in mind let me begin at the beginning.
I was born in 1986 to Kathleen and Eric Parson but I only have vague memories of my father before he and mum separated, I was five at the time and my sister, Paula was two. At the time we lived in Croydon and mum was a criminal lawyer. I’ve only met him once since he left, when he dropped in on the family during my last year of high school. I have mixed feelings about my father, the only contact I ever had with dad were the birthday cards and Christmas presents. It’s hard to form any kind of emotional bond like that and yet he did keep up the maintenance payments even though he was back in England. He did come to my graduation though and it felt a little awkward because by then mum had remarried again and whilst Ron wasn’t my real dad, he at least was a decent and stable father figure.
Ron was a former army captain who took early retirement from the Australian army in 1996 after twenty two years of service. He could have gone longer but a long term injury had begun to take its toll and so he retired. That was where he met mum because by then she’d gone from criminal law to property law and dad was one of her clients. In the grand tradition of romance they disliked each other at first but gradually over a period of about six months, while he renovated the farmhouse he’d bought out at Traralgon, they became lovers.
We moved there in 1997 and that was where I started high school. Moving to Traralgon was a sea change compared to Croydon. The latter is a suburb in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, whilst Traralgon is located in the east of the Latrobe Valley in Gippsland, Victoria. There are two major towns not far from home, Moe and Morwell but the area is best known for the electrical power plants that supply Melbourne and the surrounding areas with electricity. Ron worked at the plant out at Loy Yang as a shift supervisor.
It’s a bit of a lazy stereotype to say that ex army men are strict disciplinarians, Ron was disciplined but I can only recall him yelling at me once when I lit a fire out behind the shed. I thought it was cool but it was too close to the shed and Ron put it out and then told me off. Hearing him yelling at me has been one of those memories that comes back now and then, like a stone in my shoe because he was always so cool, calm and collected. Moving on however, mum fell pregnant not long after moving to Traralgon and gave birth to another daughter, Jacinta. A few months after the birth she and Ron got married and I was one of the flower girls.
I guess to sum up though, I can describe my childhood as being divided into two periods, the first being when mum was a single mother and I became her little helper, and after we moved in with Ron because that was when I’d started high school and was beginning to think for myself and explore the world around me. Mum was focused on balancing her work life as a local lawyer and her home life. She didn’t go back to full time work until Jacinta turned five and started school and by then I was getting to the end of high school.
There is one primary reason people either move to small towns or want to move out of them. Beylikdüzü escort In small towns everybody knows you and whilst city folk love that idea, when you’re raised in a small town it becomes downright suffocating. With my situation it was even more poignant because I’d spent over ten years of my life in the suburbs. I had found it pretty difficult to make friends for the first few years because I was from the city, later on though I began to long for the city, because even though Croydon is a suburban backwater, at least you can jump on a train or get in your car and go into the city.
To make matters even more difficult I was caught between two tertiary education options. The first was a local Tafe college, the equivalent of a community college, and proper university in the city, well the suburbs at least. The pull towards the first option was down to my best friend, Amanda who was literally the only gay in high school. She and I became best friends when I caught some girls hassling her and stepped in to save her. No furry animals were hurt in the brief encounter but one girl was pushed into a fence when she tried to call my bluff. It’s the only time in my life where I did get physically violent with someone and I only got away with it that time because I was taller than the ringleader and she was a rank coward.
Amanda and I were best friends from that moment on and I could expand more on our friendship but now is not the time or place, suffice it to say I was always more interested in keeping it on a platonic level. Looking back I can admit that my approach to Amanda was years ahead of the times, and yet at the time I didn’t see it as such a big thing. I had a gay best friend and it just made life more interesting. However getting back to my tertiary options I’d long been interested in religion as a subject, how they developed and why people believed certain things so deeply that they’d die rather than recant their beliefs.
This interest in religion was somewhat odd considering the atheism I’d been raised with but it had a lot to do with my friendship with Amanda. She’d been raised in a Christian family and whilst they never went to the extent of rejecting their daughter, there was some conflict in the family home. Amanda was one of those troubled souls who tried desperately to marry the two lifestyles and without telling her story, she managed it but I’ll tell you about that later on. Suffice it to say, I was exploring my own options, I’d dated in high school but nothing too serious because I took my studies seriously, boys to me were for fun but if you want a deep and meaningful conversation you talked to a girl.
It all came to a head the week before the prom night, which in true Aussie fashion had been called the high school Bachelors and Spinsters ball. Those balls do exist in country towns but they’re for adults not kids but the teacher in charge of the event decided to try something different and he spent the next five years trying to live it down. However all that aside, the ball highlighted one of the flaws of country towns in general. Amanda was the only gay and thus finding her a date was a bit of a problem and oddly enough it was Ron who came up with the solution.
“Just go as her friend. You don’t have to say it’s a date because it’s not but she practically lives here anyway. If someone asks if she’s your date just tell them the truth, you came with her to show some bloody solidarity.”
There are times when Ron comes at me sideways with one of those odd little gems and as queer as it sounds, it actually worked a charm. Amanda was suddenly enthusiastic about the prom, and I had an excuse to dump my regular boyfriend Gary. He and I had been drifting apart for some time and it was only habit that kept us together. Gary was captain of the school football team and actually a good catch but lately I’d felt like I was just the accessory hanging off his arm.
However if you think that she and I hit it off on prom night you’d be wrong. It might happen in the movies but in real life it’s a different story. What did happen at the prom was the realisation that if I went to the same community college as Amanda she’d never move on. I also recognised that if I so much as gave out the right signals then it would lead me further into her life and this bothered me because I felt she had to move on and find her own feet. I also needed to move on and find my own feet and looking back it all seems so clear now, I was drawn to Amanda but my determination to keep her as just a best friend was just my way of avoiding the issue.
When I told her of my plans she was initially disappointed and upset but she accepted that I’d made the decision she could never make and in hindsight it was the right one, she did move onto bigger and better things but I’m getting ahead of myself yet again!
Monash university is located in the southern suburb of Clayton. The Centre for Religious Studies was part of the Art Department, being loosely cobbled together Beylikdüzü escort with philosophy and other such disciplines. Overall it was a fairly diverse group, some outright atheists like myself who were interested in religion from a purely objective point of view, a few Christians and the rest were a smattering of people from other religious disciplines.
Coming into Monash though was like stepping into a new world of sight, sound, taste, smells and touch. Australia has long sought international students and it wasn’t uncommon to hear different languages spoken throughout the course of the day and into the night. Our night activities often involved drinking games, even for those of us in religious studies. I know of one student who went onto become a theologian, who could stand on his head and drink a yard glass of beer. It’s not a feat I’ve managed to accomplish but it’s impressive to watch. One of our former Prime Ministers was able to do it, which probably explains why Aussies elected him to the top job.
As I’ve already mentioned, I wasn’t religious despite the fact I was studying religion. My sex life was what I would class as normal, I wasn’t one for bed hopping but if the opportunity arose and I felt comfortable then I’d certainly hop into bed with a guy. I wasn’t big on commitment though because I was trying to focus on my studies.
I guess that leads me onto my next part, the one night stand with Alicia. She started at university when I was in my third year, she’d been at a Catholic university in Queensland and transferred to Melbourne to the course I was currently doing.
At the time I was dating another Gary, which I found slightly tiring. Not because of the name it was more the subtle expectation that he and I would become an item. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a commitment but not back then when I was so young. Gary was a year older than me and was in the Army Reserve, which made him an unusual guy at Monash and his pressure on me was starting to tell on me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him a lot just not the way he wanted me to like him and when Alicia turned up at the Monash campus she was like a breath of fresh air.
Alicia reminded me somewhat of Amanda, not so much the looks, she had a mixed Maori heritage but it’s only when you see pictures of her maternal grandmother that you can see it clearly. Her grandmother had married a Caucasian man and whilst her mother was born in New Zealand, her father was Australian. She had dark hair as opposed to Amanda’s blonde locks and her figure was a little stouter, back then anyway. She was from a Christian family and like Amanda she was struggling with her sexuality.
One of her primary reasons for transferring down south was the fact that the course at Monash was far more in depth than the Christian one. Her secondary reason though was far more mysterious, she needed to get out of home. However moving from one end of the country to the other had meant that she was far removed from her traditional support network. She said she had a boyfriend back in her home state but claimed that they were just taking a break from each other. All in all, she was a curious creature and it was the mystery that reeled me in. Well that and my history with Amanda, I almost felt as if my special social skill was best straight friend for any gay woman who needed friendship. Alicia arrived on campus in my third year of college and her timing could not have been better timed.
I’d had kept in contact with Amanda over the previous three years, usually when I went back home for the weekend, and if she was around then we’d get get together. However she’d progressed in leaps and bounds and had come out publicly when she met Freda and so I’d backed off and let them get on with it. However I had no idea they were planning on getting hitched. The first I knew about it was when she turned up one night at my student digs in Springvale with her girlfriend to show me the ring on her finger.
“We’re getting hitched,” she glanced at her girlfriend, Freda, “well, it’s gonna be a civil ceremony.”
“Congratulations,” I kissed her cheek, “and your parents will be at the wedding?”
“I’ve told them they don’t have agree with my decision but I want them there,” she flicked at her hair, “but their pastor is praying for my immortal soul.”
“I’m sure God is more understanding than your pastor,” I replied.
“Let’s hope so,” she stepped back and sat down on the sofa, “um, I was wondering.”
“Wondering what?” I also sat down.
“Would you be my bridesmaid?”
“Oh,” I put my hand to my throat, “um, okay, sure but what about your sister?”
“I did ask her but because she’s still in the church youth group my parents thought it might not be a good idea, at least not officially. She’ll be at the ceremony too but I need someone to be the official bridesmaid.”
“Okay,” I looked at Freda, “sure, I’ll do it.”
“Great,” she smoothed out her dress, “you can bring a partner with you, are you Escort Beylikdüzü dating?”
“Kind of,” I thought of Gary, “but maybe I’ll bring a girlfriend.”
“A girlfriend?” Amanda’s eyes shifted.
“Not that kind of girlfriend,” I added quickly, “she’s just transferred here from Queensland and I’m trying to get her to make new friends.”
“Sure thing,” Amanda nodded, “I mean there will be gay women there, but a lot of straights as well, and we’d love to see you both there, wouldn’t we?” Amanda looked at Freda.
“For sure,” Freda nodded enthusiastically.
Alicia wasn’t so sure however.
“Maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea, I’d have to tell my parents and while they can’t stop me from going it might lead to problems, and besides I don’t have anything to wear.”
“I don’t understand,” I frowned, “what’s the problem with going to a gay civil ceremony? It’s not like you’re doing anything illegal.”
She looked away and her eyes glazed over and thinking she was about to collapse I reached for her, she winced and pulled back.
“There’s something I have to tell you, about me.”
“Go on,” I eased back a little.
“I had an affair, well kind of, with a girl in school.”
“Okay,” I shrugged, “so what? I can’t say I had an affair with a girl but I had plenty of boyfriends, do you think you’re gay?”
“I’m not sure,” she slipped a hand beneath the collar of her blouse, “maybe I am, maybe I’m not but my parents were really against it. That’s why I was taken out of the public school and put into a Christian school, an Anglican girl’s school.”
“Fuck that’s just adding fuel to the fire,” I grinned crookedly, “seriously, what were they thinking, that it’s a condition? If you like girls you like girls, it’s quite simple. I like girls too and now and then I have these curious urges but I’ve never carried them out. Amanda was my best friend in high school and I guess if I’d been that way inclined we might have but we didn’t and now I’m going to be a bridesmaid.”
I propped on my palm.
“But seriously, I think you should go, not as my date but my plus one. It would be good to get out and see how the other half lives. The wedding is in Moe, you’ll be staying at my joint. Just tell them you’re going up the bush for the weekend and leave it at that. You’re not telling a lie, you will be up the bush and when it comes to a dress we can go shopping and I’ll even lend you the money.”
“I can’t let you do that,” she bit her lip.
“Well my mum might have something you can wear, she’s about your size,” I ventured, “come on, Alicia, let’s just do this. Amanda is my best friend and you’re my friend too, I get a feeling this will be good for you, nothing ventured nothing gained.”
“In for a penny in for a pound,” she murmured.
“Exactly,” I nudged her, “so, what do you say? Let’s do this.”
“Let me think about it,” she replied, “I’ll call you tomorrow after work.”
Alicia worked as a part time waitress at a Vietnamese restaurant in Springvale. I kind of put it out of my mind because Gary was coming around for a few drinks and a fuck, because for him those two things went hand in hand. But about 10:30 PM she turned up in her waitress uniform, white blouse, black trousers and black tie. I’d showered by then and was wearing my dressing gown and Gary was still in his underpants, he had to get dressed while I dealt with Alicia.
“I’ve been thinking about it,” she fiddled with her tie, “it’s been on my mind all afternoon, I almost came into your ethics class to tell you no but then I changed my mind,” she looked away.
“And?” I felt as if my heart was in my throat.
“Yes,” she turned back to me, “I’ll go out with you, to this wedding as long as you promise not to buy me a dress, I have something I can wear.”
“What wedding?” Gary spoke up as he stepped into the living room. He’d fastened his jeans but was still shirtless.
“Just my best friend’s wedding,” I explained.
“And you’re not taking me?”
“It’s a gay wedding,” I rolled my eyes.
“Cool,” he gave me the thumbs up, “I’d be into that as long as it’s two sexy women.”
“I wouldn’t,” I replied, “besides, it’s up the bush and you have to work that weekend.”
“I can cancel,” he sat down next me and put his hand on my leg, a moment later he sighed and took his hand away, “okay, okay, I get it, you don’t want me there.”
Gary never was that quick on the uptake and I grimaced as I replied.
“It’s a girl thing,” I explained, “don’t take it personally.”
“No worries, I’m going out for some fags. You want anything from the bottle shop?”
“I’m fine,” I replied.
He kissed me on the lips and I had a fleeting glimpse of Alicia’s face, she blushed and looked away before I pulled back.
“He’s a nice guy,” she managed once he was gone.
“He’s a pain the arse,” I collapsed back onto the couch, “when he turned up with a six pack of beer and a bottle of Southern I thought it was just a quiet night in front of the bloody telly but all he wanted was a root.”
“That sounds nice.”
“For once,” I looked down at myself, “I wish a guy would just be, you know, pleasant company instead of putting on a show until he can dip his wick.”
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